Forward in Faith speaker hopes for CoE property

Rev Geoffrey Kirk

Rev Geoffrey Kirk

Anglican clergy who become Catholic under Pope Benedict's Apostolic Constitution should be allowed to take property and  assets with them, Rev Geoffrey Kirk told the national assembly of Forward in Faith held in the Emmanuel Centre, Westminster, on Friday and Saturday.

Addressing the assembly, Rev Kirk said that during the Exodus: ''The Hebrews did not leave Egypt empty handed. We must now apply ourselves to the task of securing our buildings and assets. We must ensure - for its own good and self-respect - that the Church of England is as generous in its dealings with us.''

But Bishop Keith Newton, a 'flying bishop' who ministers to Anglican parishes opposed to women clergy and who has had several meetings with senior Vatican officials,warned that there was ''no opportunity to negotiate the contents'' of what was on offer. Converts would have to accept all aspects of Catholicism and only maintain Anglican traditions that met with Vatican approval. The price would be high for clergy. They would have to leave behind a job, salary and home and be reordained, he said.

The mood of the mostly elderly audience seemed to be against the Vatican initiative. Bishop John Gaisford, the retired bishop of Beverley, drew loud applause when he said he did not want to convert.  He said: ''I never sought to cross the Tiber. I want to fight as fiercely as we can for our position within the Anglican communion.''

One of the panel speakers, Father David Houlding, a member of General Synod, the Church of England's governing body said he was considering converting,  "but there is a lot to consider.''

"The Vatican is calling our bluff," he said. "Many people have been angry with the Church of England and it's rather fun being angry. But now they're giving us what we want and it's an exciting but frightening development."

The Right  Reverend John Hind, Anglican Bishop of Chichester, told the press: “This is a remarkable new step from the Vatican. At long last there are some choices for Catholics in the Church of England, I'd be happy to be re-ordained into the Catholic Church.”

Another conference participant, Fr Edward Tomlinson, Anglican Vicar of St Barnabas, said that he would be following the lead of Bishop Hind. “The ship of Anglicanism seems to be going down... We should be grateful that a lifeboat has been sent. I shall be seeking to move to Rome. To stay in the Church of England would be suicide,” Fr Tomlinson said.

In an emotional closing speech on Saturday, Bishop Broadhurst used the metaphor of the frog and the boiling pot to describe the current Anglican status.

"The temperature at the pot has become intolerable, but the process of boiling started before the ordination of women… The truth is, the tragedy for us is the Church of England has presumed. It's presumed to know better than the tradition on many matters and it's presumed to know better than Jesus Christ about some matters,” he said.

The text of the Apostolic Constitution has not been released yet and it is likely to be some months before any Anglican clergy decide to move.

A spokesman at Lambeth Palace said there would not be the same compensation package available to those becoming Catholic as there was when the first group converted after 1993.

At the press conference last week when the Apostolic Constitution was announced, the Archbishop of Westminster, Most Rev Vincent Nichols, said there would be ''formidable legal obstacles'' if the former Anglican clergy  wished to appropriate churches for their converted congregations.

In his statement responding to the initiative, Anglican Bishop Christopher Hill of Guildford said that any move "has to self-financing".

For more information and to hear all the Forward in Faith conference speeches click on:

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